Online course details
Part-time: 4-6 years
£3,200 per year (2023/24)
Online course description
- Undertake research that will enhance your professional practice, benefiting you, your clients and others in the profession
- Our expert teaching team are either personally engaged in professional practice or actively researching how it may be enhanced and our ongoing research in professional practice means we bring cutting-edge knowledge to the delivery of the programme
- Benefit from our extensive industry links in both professional and publicly funded areas of practice. Our knowledge and expertise ranges from the board room to the changing room or clinic and our industry awareness shows through in the material delivered in the programme and our individual support for each student
- Members of the teaching team have undertaken a professional doctorate themselves. They have first-hand experience of the journey you will go on and can provide relevant and effective support for you throughout the programme
The Doctorate in Professional Practice (Sport and Exercise) aims to develop your ability to use applied research methods helping you to explore key aspects of your professional experience and current practice in meaningful and relevant ways.
We all know that professional practice can be a complex, messy and nuanced experience for sport and exercise practitioners. We have designed the programme to explore innovative research methods that recognise and work with the complexity of practice. We aim to equip you to be able undertake projects such as:
- Exploring and critiquing the culture in a specific sport or exercise environment to better understand how it might be enhanced (ethnography)
- Exploring how different forms of personal development (e.g., reflective practice) can enhance practitioner philosophies, knowledge and skills
- Going through cycles of intervention, reflection and planning to improve practice with a specific group of athletes or patients (action research)
- Following, critically examining and understanding the experiences of groups of athletes or patients (case-studies)
- Examining the impact of new practice methods on client outcomes
Completion of the doctorate will set you apart from other professionals in your area. On the programme, you will develop critical expertise that can enhance your career and sharpen your professional practice. It will enhance your ability to influence thought and practice in your field and prepare you for more senior professional roles in sport or exercise. The programme will also equip you to step across into a role within higher education.
Research that’s creative, innovative and relevant to you
The programme allows you to tailor your research to your own interests and will improve your knowledge and understanding of a range of research and enquiry methodologies and skills related to your profession. By completing the doctorate, you will enhance your practice and make an original contribution or application of knowledge to your specialist field. Additionally, we will help you develop your ability to communicate your thinking and research outputs to relevant professional or academic audiences.
To support you on your research journey, we have an experienced and passionate teaching team. The team has extensive personal experience of professional practice across a wide range of sport and exercise disciplines including performance management, coaching, sport psychology, sport therapy, talent development and many others.
The team is passionate about supporting fellow practitioners to develop their understanding of their discipline and their craft. In addition, programme staff have expertise to support you throughout your doctorate, as follows:
- Undertaking research on how to optimise professional practice
- Using creative and innovative research methods such as case study research or (auto)ethnography
- Developing reflective practice in professional practitioners
- Coaching and mentoring professionally
To complete the Doctorate in Professional Practice (Sport and Exercise), you will need to complete the postgraduate taught (PGT) phase which entails two x 60 credit modules. These modules develop your research skills for independent doctoral research as well as providing opportunity to refine your research question(s).
In the first module, you will explore the literature relating to your chosen research area. You will be supported to undertake a critical analysis of this and explore how it relates to professional practice in your field.
In the second module, you will refine your research question and critically consider research design, methods and the ethical implications of your research. Alongside this, you will also be encouraged to critically reflect on your evolving identity as a practitioner-researcher.
The taught phase is then followed by the postgraduate research (PGR) phase of your doctoral studies. In this, you will undertake an independent research project (within a 420-credit module) closely supported by a doctoral supervisory team (Director of Studies and second supervisor). This project will culminate in the submission of your final doctoral thesis.
Please note that our modules are subject to change - we review the content of our courses regularly, making changes where necessary to improve your experience and graduate prospects.
The online doctorate blends learning within a cohort of fellow professionals with independent research. The postgraduate taught (PGT) phase (2 modules) is undertaken with a cohort of other learners before you move on to working independently. However, even when you are working independently, fellow members of your cohort will be going on the same journey in parallel with you.
We will create Communities of Practice (CoP) across the programme where members of a CoP are looking at similar topics or research methods. The peer-to-peer support that these communities offer is invaluable helping to build confidence and expand your support network.
When working with individual students, we utilise a coaching-based approach to support and supervision. Our aim is to constructively challenge learners’ assumptions, perceptions and beliefs about practice, helping them to think creatively about future practice.
Throughout the programme, you will have support from the Programme Leader, module tutors and mentors.
Postgraduate Taught (PGT) phase
The two years of the postgraduate taught (PGT) phase combines self-study with asynchronous interactions to enhance your learning. You will access all the study materials, webinars and tutorials through our virtual learning environment.
You will be given access to our instructional materials at regular intervals, and you can structure the pace and timing of study to suit your own professional circumstances. Your self-study will be enhanced with personal and group tutorials, webinars and online discussion forums. In addition, you will be able to discuss ideas and challenges with students who are using similar research methods or following similar topics with the communities of practice.
We work to ensure that our curriculum is up-to-date and that your learning is current and relevant. The programme will continue to evolve in response to the evolution of sport and exercise policy and thinking, both nationally and globally.
Postgraduate Research (PGR) phase
During the postgraduate research (PGR) phase, you will be partnered with a Director of Studies and a second Supervisor – their research expertise (in terms of topic or methods) will be matched to your research question. You will undertake your research project under your supervisors' guidance prior to completing your thesis and viva voce (the oral examination).
Throughout your independent research, you will also be able to continue drawing on the communities of practice to benefit from the peer-to-peer support. As a research student, you will also be able to access an array of webinars and tutorials held across a wide range of research-oriented topics via the University’s Postgraduate Researcher Development Programme.
Duration of study
This programme is undertaken through part-time online study. It can be accessed from anywhere in the world and can be completed in four years. The PGT phase covers years one and two whilst the PGR phase can be completed in years three and four. Depending on the pace of your research, the registration period can be extended to a maximum of eight years.
The academic year is made up of three 10-week terms, known as trimesters. The postgraduate taught 60-credit modules are therefore taken over the whole academic year and we recommend about 20 hours of study per week to complete 20-credits per 10-week trimester.
Assessments provide a variety and range of tasks designed to facilitate professionals such as yourself in articulating and disseminating your research and expertise. Over the course of the whole programme, you will undertake the following:
- Reflective assessments looking at the nature of practitioner research within your discipline
- A literature review focused on your area of study
- Presentations to professional or academic audiences discussing topics such as:
- your identity as a practitioner-researcher
- your proposed research topic and methods
- ethical debates in sport and exercise research
- An oral (viva voce) discussion about your research question and methods
- Completion of a Research thesis
- An oral (viva voce) discussion of your research
You will usually have the following:
- a Master’s degree in a sport and exercise related discipline
- appropriate experience of work within your professional practice (minimum two to three years)
- be able to articulate how the programme will be positioned within your practice and personal context
English language qualifications
If English is not your first language, or you have not successfully completed your highest level of qualification in English, you will need an English language qualification.
For this course, you will need to have IELTS level 7.5 or equivalent.
Please provide full details of your English language qualification with your application.
Find out more about our English language requirements
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)
Have you already studied at another institution, completed a training course, or does your work experience appear equivalent to one or more modules of your chosen course? If so, you may able to translate this prior learning into credits towards your course modules, so you don’t have to study them again.
Further information about applying for credits for prior learning can be found in our recognition of prior learning section.
2023/24 (August 2023 - July 2024)
Starting between September 2023 and August 2024.
UK/EU fee: £3,200 per year
International fee: £3,200 per year
Please note that the instalment calendar for this programme is as follows:
|Trimester in which course begins
||Initial payment up front (25%)
||2nd payment (25%) due
||3rd payment (25%) due
||4th payment (25%) due
||Total payment made (100%)
||Enrolment = £800
||1 November = £800
||1 February = £800
||1 May = £800
About your fees
This figure would be the total cost of this course in the current academic year. However, please note that fees normally increase in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees, which is reviewed on an annual basis. The total fee you pay may therefore increase if your course lasts longer than one year.
However, please also note that you can receive a 5% discount if you either:
- Pay your full course fees upfront*, or
- When enrolling in September, pay for all of your modules to be studied in that academic year upfront*
Please note: that any costs incurred as part of your Research Study are not included within your course fees.
*The discount for paying your fees up front, either for the full programme or the academic year, will only be available to students enrolling for eligible online studies between August 2023 and July 2024 and will not be available for the September 2024 intake onwards.
Please note fees normally increase in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees, which is reviewed on an annual basis. The total fee you pay may therefore increase after one year of study.
Alumni discount for Derby graduates
We offer a discount on postgraduate course fees for all Derby alumni.
Find out about the Alumni discount
The information provided on this page is correct at the time of publication but course content, costs and other individual course details do change from time to time and are updated as often as possible, so please do check these pages again when making your final decision to apply for a course. Any updated course details will also be confirmed to you at application, enrolment and in your offer letter.
How to apply
Please look at our application deadlines before you apply.
Students should apply directly to the University by using the 'Apply now' button on this page.
For support with completing your application, view our guide to the application process.
All applications will be reviewed by the University and suitable applicants will be invited to for an interview that will be held on Microsoft Teams.
At interview, staff will explore the research proposal (see below). A discussion will also be held with each prospective student to ensure that there is a clear and shared understanding of the expectations of the programme in terms of time commitment. Applicants will need to assure the University that they have the time and support, both professional and personal, to allow them to meet the demands of the programme.
Documents to support your application
For your application to be assessed, you will need to provide the following documents when you apply:
- Photo ID – this could be your passport or driving licence
- Proof of your qualifications such as copies of certificates and transcripts or a letter of testimony for previous qualifications
- Your up-to-date Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Two references - these can be sent electronically and can either be on signed letter headed paper or sent directly from your referees’ professional email address:
- a satisfactory academic or employer reference from someone able to comment positively on your capability to study at the level of the programme you have applied for. It is your responsibility to obtain this reference, we do not contact your referees
- Personal Statement outlining:
- Why undertaking the research is important to you
- An overview of any relevant experience you already have in the areas you want to research
- How studying on the programme will enhance your personal practice or your profession
- Research Proposal (the proposal should look to consider the following):
- An initial working title
- An indication of what the general topic area and main aim/s of your research would be leading to one or more research questions
- One or more research questions
- The reasons why your proposal will contribute to knowledge (theory, practice, policy, etc.). The proposal should show there is a genuine gap in practice or the literature, as doctoral study requires you to make a genuine and original contribution to practice or knowledge in the area you are proposing to study
- The benefits that your proposed research will bring to practitioners in your field
- A brief outline of key literature in your research area to demonstrate engagement with the literature
- A brief proposed research design including comment on a proposed sample, data collection methods, methods of analysis, ethical considerations, and location of your proposed study
Please ensure you spend time reading on your topic area and existing research and refining your proposal prior to applying.
The programme will be a core driver of your personal and professional development. You will gain outstanding skills in research, analysis, critical and strategic thinking which will set you aside from your peers. This will serve to enhance your professional standing and open opportunities for you to progress in your professional career. This might be through using your strategic skills and research in senior leadership and management roles. Equally, you may look to become a recognised as an expert practitioner specialising in particular interventions, therapies or forms of client support.
Alternatively, following the Doctorate, you may wish to explore opportunities outside of professional practice such as academic or research roles within Higher Education or research roles in other organisations and agencies.
Utilise our Careers and Employment Service
Whilst you are a student at the University of Derby, and for 3 years after you graduate, our Careers and Employment Service can assist you with job search advice, CV creation, workshops and events, as well as one-to-one appointments with employment advisers to help with career planning and interview preparation.
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